It was in the year 1975 that the A.J.C. finally accommodated Bart Cummings with stables on Randwick racecourse. It had taken a while to get there. Only in June the year before, the club had overlooked Cummings in favour of local trainers Pat Murray and Kevin Graham when it came to reallocating the recently deceased Fred Allsop’s Connaught Lodge on Randwick racecourse. Now, however, it was the committee’s fervent hope that the Adelaide horseman would break the stranglehold that Tommy Smith had exerted over Sydney racing for almost a quarter of a century.
Like true love, most romances of the Turf never run smooth and such it was with trainer Doug Bougoure and his champion galloper Strawberry Road, our winner of the 1983 A.J.C. Derby. Born in October 1922 in the rural town of Warwick, set amidst the rich Darling Downs some 81 miles southwest of Brisbane, Bougoure was the eighth child and fifth son in a family of ten children. His father, Daniel, was the manager of Risdon station, a sprawling sheep property just outside Warwick that later became a thoroughbred stud. Young Doug received precious little formal education but he could ride before most other children had left the nursery. From the moment he could walk, this fascination with horses saw him mustering at Risdon with his father early in life and later working with Jack Rademy at Yandilla.
It is almost impossible to exaggerate the exquisite quality of thoroughbreds produced by David Hains’s Kingston Park Stud during the height of its fame from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. Back then it was widely considered the most cost-efficient stud in Australia. We have already studied the first champion for which the stud was responsible in the shape of the 1980 A.J.C. Derby winner, Kingston Town. Just two years later the stud produced its second champion in Rose Of Kingston, a filly who would emulate the King by winning the 1982 A.J.C. Derby in David Hains’s famous colours, and in so doing become the first of her sex to take the classic in thirty-eight years. So, where did her story begin?
Few men came to have more influence on racing in Australasia in the last two decades of the twentieth century than Robert Edmund Sangster. Born 23 May 1936, Sangster grew up in a mansion near the Hoylake Golf Club, Liverpool, England, the only child of Vernon Sangster who had founded the Vernons Pools Company ten years earlier. Robert was educated at the exclusive Repton School in Derbyshire, the school featured in the acclaimed 1939 film ‘Goodbye, Mr Chips’ and apart from Sangster, numbered amongst its notable and eclectic alumni were Roald Dahl, Harold Abrahams and Jeremy Clarkson.
Racecourse life has its rituals and traditions, like muddy car parks in winter and cold pies in summer, not to mention overzealous panjandrums in charge of course parking and access gates all year round. However, never underestimate the capacity of the racecourse for throwing up the unexpected. Ever since seeing Tulloch stroll away with the 1957 Rosehill Guineas as a very young boy, I’d impatiently waited for another champion galloper that was Tulloch’s equal to come along. Of course, what I didn’t realise in my adolescence, was that real champions are almost as rare and as fleeting as a transit of Venus.